Originally created 05/26/06

Future will be like past for criminal



A man who has spent the past 40 years in and out of prison is headed back, possibly for the last time.

James T. Bryant, 59, pleaded guilty to robbery and weapon charges earlier this year in U.S. District Court. He admitted he was the gunman who held up three people at Finish Line Cafe in Martinez on Dec. 27, 2004.

Mr. Bryant's prior crimes began in October 1962 and continued through the decades, except for the times he was imprisoned, in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, according to court records.

Because of his extensive criminal history, Mr. Bryant was sentenced Thursday as an armed career criminal.

His sentencing range was 264 to 327 months without parole.

Defense attorney Kirk Gilliard asked the judge to consider the minimum sentence. Even with that, any sentence could be a life sentence for a man of Mr. Bryant's age, Mr. Gilliard said.

Mr. Bryant admitted his guilt from the beginning and is extremely remorseful, his attorney said. All of his crimes had been drug related - either drug crimes or crimes to get money to support his addiction, Mr. Gilliard said.

"I'm sorry I didn't overcome that addiction," Mr. Bryant said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Johnson said this is the kind of case the prosecution would typically ask for a maximum punishment if it were not for Mr. Bryant's age.

"(Still,) society really isn't safe with him on the streets again," Ms. Johnson said.

Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. chose to impose the minimum, 22 years. He will be on supervised release for three years after finishing his jail time.

Judge Bowen didn't address Mr. Bryant's one request. His attorney asked if there were any possibility that Mr. Bryant could have a visit with his mother before he is transferred to a federal prison.

Mr. Bryant has been held without bond since his arrest. His mother is confined to a nursing home and cannot travel.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.